Vitamin B12 – Clarifying Some Misinformation

Last night I watched an episode on NBC’s The Doctors. If you don’t know the show they have four doctors with different specialties discussing and educating the audience on popular health care topics.

One of the topics for discussion was whether vitamin B12 injections have any effect.  The answer from the panel was a quick, “No, the energy increase the person is experiencing is simply a placebo effect, there is no reason somebody would be low in vitamin B12 they should be getting it from their diet.”

I was seriously surprised at the oversimplification and misinformation as this comment is basically 100% false and misleading.  So in an effort to create a sane stream of health information, here’s the deal with vitamin B12:

Vitamin B12 is important for nerve and blood health among a host of crucial biochemistry.  The best dietary sources are from animal products such as meat (especially liver), fish, eggs and dairy.  As as side note, no plant foods can be relied on as a sole source of vitamin B12, If you are vegan I strongly suggest supplementing.  I say sole source because you would have to eat several pounds of specific plants a day to get close to the daily requirement.  There are bacteria in the colon which are capable of producing B12, but their location makes it difficult for absorption (hence why many vegetarian animals eat their own feces such as rabbits etc). The fermented soy, spirulina, seaweed, algae and nori products don’t actually contain B12, but an inactive analogue which does not serve the needs of an omnivore’s physiology nor lower MMA levels (test to determine biological activity of B12).  Of course artificially fortified foods remain an option for those choosing this path.

As a side note, human feces is loaded with B12 due to these bacteria (I’m sorry, put your food away, besides you shouldn’t be surfing the web and eating anyway).  Researchers found a group of Iranian vegans who showed no signs of B12 deficiency – it was discovered that the reason behind this was that they at vegetables fertilized with, you guessed it, human feces and then did not sufficiently wash the produce.  I suppose that this remains a viable alternative (no please, I’m only joking).  Anyhow, I digress.

The body has the capacity to store a few years worth of vitamin B12 (mostly in the liver, which is why Pâté is such a good source of B12 – bon appetit).  This is probably why the panel made the comment about the vitamin B12 shot having no effect on the body as in theory it should all be there.


It is generally not the lack of B12 in our diet that leads to a functional decrease in B12 levels, it is the assimilation. Vitamin B12 has a very complex absorption process, here are a few details.

Each of these steps must be fully intact in order to guarantee B12 delivery into the system, here’s a short list of the most common reasons that they may be inhibited.

  • * The casual use of over the counter antacids and increasing prescription of acid inhibiting drugs.
  • * Poor eating habits lead to a functional decrease in stomach acid output from the stomach (that feeling of being full/bloated after a protein heavy meal).

Here are a few signs & symptoms which can be associated with B12 deficiency :

    * Low energy, chronic fatigue

    * Mental fog, forgetfulness, memory loss

    * Depression

    * Pernicious anemia, megaloblastic anemia

    * Numbness, tingling in hands or feet

    * Dizziness

    * Headaches

    * Neurological damage

    * Gastritis

B12 functional deficiency is quite common especially because high stress depletes this vitamin. To get back to the point of this article and the misinformation from NBC’s “The Doctors” – B12 shots CAN make an enormous impact for someone who has had a long term deficiency or someone who has problems with absorption.  The shot is not the long term solution however, healing the G.I. tract and ensuring all the mechanisms for absorption are intact is the long term solution.  In the meantime it can provide a drastic improvement in energy and mental function. The idea with the shot is to bypass all those steps needed for absorption from the diet and simply inject directly into the tissue.  The wise approach would be to use these in the interim and get down to business and fix the actual problem.

Heal your gut & eat more pâté.

Video on how-to make chicken liver pâté.

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Dr. Nishant Rao

Dr. Nishant Rao is an outspoken proponent of holistic medicine.  He received his medical degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Oregon and a Bachelors in Herbal Sciences from Bastyr University in Washington.

Dr. Nishant believes strongly in integrative medicine and a collaborative approach to healthcare as the solution to create sustainable wellness.

Having been recently uprooted from the beautiful green mountains of the Pacific Northwestern United States, he is traveling with his wife Dr. Arin Rao, also a naturopathic physician, through South East Asia and the Middle East working to increase the awareness of holistic medicine.  He is involved with the next evolution of health 2.0 with partners around the world.  

You can read more from Dr. Nishant at

Please let us know what you think about this article. All comments will be moderated before being posted publicly.


  1. Anonymous says

    I get a Vitamin B-12 shot each month because three feet of my small intestine was removed because of Crohn’s Disease. The section which was removed is where B-12 would be absorbed, so I say Thank God there are shots that can be taken for this.

  2. Anonymous says

    The most common form of B12 used in supplements is cyanocobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is not only poorly utilized by the body, but it is a source of toxic cyanide. Better manufacturers use methylcobalamin, but this form of B12 has a half life of only about five minutes in the body.

    Hydroxocobalamin is rarely found in supplements because it is very expensive. High quality hydroxocobalamin costs in excess of $3,000 a pound as opposed to hundreds of dollars for other forms. Yet hydroxocobalamin is by far the most bioavailable and has a half-life of hours vs. methylcobalamin’s minutes.

    Raymond Francis one the few scientists to achieve a breakthrough understanding of health and disease.” A graduate of M.I.T. and an expert in vitamin chemistry

    – Show quoted text –

  3. Freddd says

    I am dependent upon 30mg/day of methylcobalamin given as 3 10mg sc injections to keep feeling in my feet and not end up in a wheelchair. With methylcobalamin exposed to too much light, broken down to hydroxycobalamin, I get acne and increasing numbness within 3 days. I have experiemnted with my physician finding the minimum that works as well as the needed cofactors like methylfolate and adenosylb12, l-carnitine fumarate, SAM-e and a host of other vitamins and minerals to keep neurological deterioration at bay. Hydroxycobalamin is massively inferior to the effect of methylcobalamin and can’t keep my feet from going numb, lossing position sense and developing dropfoot and falling down. I must have both adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin on a regular basis to keep from rapidly developing problems.

  4. Nikki K says

    A lot of Vegetarian or Vegan cultures (excuse the pun) EAT cultured Dairy products sparingly just at Seasonal change Celebrations to RE-plenish their bodies’ stock, so to speak,
    of B-12.

    Most folks do NOT need to eat B-12 daily to maintain their required levels (unless there is another problem going on) because the body can store it and use it over a period of time (as mentioned in the above article).

    When you are running out of B-12, hold another Celebration and eat some Kefir or a piece of Cheese, and your set for another couple of months to a couple of years.

    As for fertilizing crops with manure and us eating poopie…
    Get over it people ! Farmers have done this since Adam.

    Fresh Manure is broken down by the Sun and microbes over time and the nutrients go back into the soil to feed your plants as well as YOU ! The good B-12 microbes continue to propagate in the soil and attach onto vegetation. If, when you ingest the veggie you ingest some of them into your digestive system, your system should be able to handle it !
    If all goes well with IF and your digestion process, you have
    the makings of good B-12 in your bowles… producing more !

    That’s how we get alot of our trace minerals, too. From the SOIL (that is, if it is GOOD Earth not depleted of minerals).

    How folks can get all grossed out at the idea of eating a few good bacteria from poop in the soil on their veggies, but can kill an animal, rip out its Liver (which is a Filter for ALL sorts of things like toxins etc..) and then eat THAT, totally amazes me!

    To eat you own, I guess …..

    GOD BLESS !,

    Nikki K./ HHC

  5. Anonymous says

    Take 3-5 cc of B complex (not just B12) daily for 3 weeks and that will replenish your stores. A few days into this regimen, you will feel like a much different person. It’s like having an IQ of 200 and the energy of a 3 year old when you feel the change. Mental fog is a sign that dementia and Alzheimer’s is in your future. The tiny sting of this B complex is better than living in a facility for the mentally unwell. After building B vitamin stores for 3 weeks, one can just use lozenges once per week to maintain.
    Millions of children and adults with B vitamin deficiencies are misdiagnosed and given ADHD meds that only cover the symptoms. Don’t let doctors fool you into taking their drugs and becoming addicted. Good quality B complex can be purchased in 200 cc/ml vials for an average of $9.00.

  6. Varun says

    Hi ,
    I suffered from Brain Fog, Mental laziness and cold feet (even in summers) for many years. Recent Blood tests revealed that i had accute B12 deficiency. I have been taking B12 shots for around 6 months and recent blood tests shows the normal level of B12 in my body. However i am still experincing same problems of Brain Fog, Mental laziness and cold feet . Any suggestion when shall i expect to get rid of these symptoms ??

  7. PP says

    the affects of B12 deficeiancies can be irriversable sometimes if you have deficiancies for long long periods of time…. (irreversible nervous damange). However getting B12 levels to normal does not mean, your body will become alright, you will behave much better, but to get complete cureness it will take years, B complex is something you need to maintian through out the life…. you don’t want to play with Vitamins your body… and you need to supply it consistently throughout your life, depending upon doctors recomondations of dosage, and even after reaching normal levels, you should continue… taking shots …. may be with litle longer periods. and if you still have mental laziness, and depressive symptoms… you need to go for a therapy….
    all the best.

  8. Saurabh says

    Hi I am new to this world of B-12 Deficiency and want to know some details. My B12 Level is 314. Though the average range is 200-700, I still feel that I am at the lower spectrum and the average is ideally 400-700. My regular diet is mostly vegetarian and I have various digestive issues which I understand are the triggers. Most of the symptoms that are asso. with B12 deficiency are what I experience too. My brain gets foggy at times, forgetfulness, brain freeze are common, but they are getting worse every day. I am eating B-12 cyanocobalamin tablets 1000mcg but dont know if they help since my condition seems to be primarily digestion related. I really fear about my condition getting worse from what it is now and want to get my energy and my brain back. How good are the nasal sprays and what B-12 shots should I take? Can I administer B-12 shots on my own. ( an average visit to a doctor in US to get a shot costs me 90 USD). What is the long term solution to my problem?

  9. Anonymous says

    i recently recieved 7 x b12 injections over a period of 9 days , i feel was a waist of time i feel no better ,still tyered, forgetful. and constantly pains in my right leg ,burning sensations .and parts at time are cold and further down my leg is very warm. i ache that much i carnt keep my legs still . any info or recommdations would be very grateful im only 39 , i have been diagnoised with narrowing of the archeries in my arm )

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